Parallel computing was the next big challenge
Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, agrees that the task is daunting, noting that there are currently few things that make use of more than two cores, let alone the massively parallel systems that Intel and others have on the drawing board. "The differences are so great that taking advantage of this may require a new generation of programmers trained from the start to approach the related problems differently," he said."As a result, only applications that can run tasks in parallel benefit from the speedup, and that leaves out a lot of PC applications," Helm said. Enderle also questioned whether a "killer application" will bring this computing power to the forefront, as Mundie believes, just like what word processing and spreadsheets did for the PC and how e-mail and the Web browser popularized the Internet. "The traditional -killer application' might not be the answer here. A system that could showcase intelligence would be the equivalent of the killer application," he said. Mundie also acknowledged that pushing a company as big as Microsoft to look past historical strengths and traditional ways of doing things to focus on new technology was not an easy task. But to Enderle, the solution lies in "skunk works efforts," where some staff are taken off campus and allowed to work in relative isolation from the other corporate units so they are free of the conventional thinking and policies that make it almost impossible to create a truly new way of doing things. "Every company is resistant to change and the larger the company, the more resistance you are likely to run into. Microsoft is really large," he said.
But both analysts agreed that parallel computing was the next big challenge not only for Microsoft, but also for every company that depended on the PC market, given that Intel and AMD continued to speed up their processors by greater parallel processing rather than speeding up clock speeds.